Category Archives: Internet

Why Google Apps?

So the question posed has been why? Why did we need to change our system over to Google? This goes well beyond email (Gmail), which is the only App we have currently implemented across the school, and I would like to think the move sets us up to participate more collaboratively and more effectively together.

I guess the big picture view for me is of the changing nature of knowledge. Traditionally we often held on tightly to any knowledge we had, keeping it to ourselves and maybe sharing it with others on occasion. When we did share, others filed the photocopy away, or watched the movie but gave no feedback.

The notion that knowledge belongs to someone is all a bit bizarre really and thankfully evidence and trends show that knowledge assumes a greater force when it is shared, discussed and built on. Wikipedia of course is the classic modern example. I am certainly not alone in thinking this and perhaps the best known explanation I know of can be found in this clip by Charles Leadbetter.

Other background thinking and recognition of other trends comes in the way of the Horizon Reports, released each year in a variety of formats. The reports are:

an ongoing research project that seeks to identify and describe emerging technologies likely to have a large impact on teaching, learning, research, or creative expression within education around the globe. practical models as well as access to more detailed information.

The recently released 2009 Horizon Report K-12 describes Collaborative Environments:

Collaborative environments are virtual workplaces where students and teachers can communicate, share information, and work together. A growing emphasis on collaboration in education — and an increasing recognition that collaboration is the norm in many modern workplaces — has led more teachers to seek tools to facilitate group interaction and teamwork in their classes. Online spaces designed to support groups of students working together take many forms…

The report suggests collaborative environments have a time-to-adoption horizon of one year or less. If we also look at the 2008 and 2009 Horizon Reports including the 2008 Australia and NZ Edition Horizons Report, they also describe cloud computing, collaboration webs, collective intelligence which all describes the ability to create, share and collaborate online.

So really the answers as to why we have changed is really me standing back and looking at the big picture of what not only the school administrative systems might look like in the next couple of years, but more importantly one of the ways the students will be actively learning.

While I can see quite clearly how this will look and develop, I have the advantage of having used this environment for the past few years, Gmail since its conception in 2004. I must always keep this in the back of my mind when planning and strategically implementing the Apps with the staff. Already staff are seeing the potential benefits and I can’t wait for the momentum to keep building.

We Think

Thanks to Greg, who posted this video.

We-think: mass innovation, not mass production. Certainly thought provoking.

Ideas take life when they are shared…

How do we earn a living when everyone is freely sharing their ideas?

In the past you were what you owned…. now you are what you share…

We Think is a book written by Charles Leadbeater and the first 3 chapters can be downloaded here.

Networking, links & teachers.

Today I had a really good discussion with some other staff from school. We were discussing the best solution for pooling together the wealth of information teachers often collect individually to help facilitate a new learning context, especially web links and tools.

The discussion came about from the teachers’ use of forums, used to generate discussion around their personal goals, progress and feedback from mentors, of school and EHSAS cluster goals.

The forums are starting to be used for more than just of goals, and teachers are throwing in web links and ideas, not directly related to the forum topics. You know what it is like, throw a bunch of teachers in a room and they’ll talk shop, jumping from one idea to the next with a bit of personal news thrown in. Transfer this to a forum environment and you know what I mean.

Does this unorganised jumble of links needs to be addressed? Reorganised to allow easier access to the links? Or should we just leave it as is?

Some other questions raised:

  1. Do teachers want to have a list of elearning resources (i.e. web links) gathered for them before a context of learning is about to begin?
  2. Do teachers generally find these resources a week before they need it, when the plan it, or just in time?
  3. How do they access or find them? Word of mouth? Delicious? RSS? Googled?
  4. Should we expect teachers to understand RSS? subscribing? news readers?
  5. Do we need to teach specific skills related to the use of online forums?

Lots of questions and to be honest, we came up with no one-answer-fits-all solution, or if there even needs to be a solution.

What is important is that teachers are engaged and active with online forums to support, improve andss share their classroom practice. That is just great!

SearchCloud is a Internet searching tool based on changing the size of your key words to show how important they are.

As you type in each key word, you give it a size to show its relative importance in your search results.

I can immediately see the benefit of using this with students because of the visual nature of seeing the relationship between the importance of words due to their size.

I am sure that like me, you have spent many classroom minutes going over Internet searching techniques and skills, following processes like this one (pictured below) and more, only to still see you students typing in a full question with all the and’s, to’s, the’s and 5w’s. Arrrggghhh!

SearchCloud to me immediately reinforces, by the nature of the cloud, the representation of a lot of the ideas about successfully searching the net, especially that initial entering of the search words phase.

The question is though, does it give better results as the developers claim?

From my initial use of this tool, it certainly gives different results from Google, and they do seem weighted towards the larger, more important key words.

However there seems to be a tendency to go more with blogs or less ‘official’ sources of information. I am not sure how the CloudNet searching engine actually works, it seems to be driven by a site’s (or blog post’s) attached tags. But that is just my guesswork.

What I can say is that I really love the visual approach to the search and the ability to give more weight to a search term is brilliant for younger users to really understand the importance of key wording and therefore contributing to their information literacy skills. This is not enough though by itself though and the skills of skimming scanning, synthesizing, analyzing, comparing… are still vitally important.

More info in this YouTube clip.